Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS | 1001 Bissonnet Street
TX-77005 Houston

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press release

Leonardo da Vinci, Lady with an Ermine (Portrait of Cecilia Gallerani), c. 1490 Poland has a fascinating history of collecting art. Royal patrons were responsible for acquiring masterworks of art throughout the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. When Poland lost its independence in 1795 and was then partitioned geographically, the country´s art collections felt the impact. Cultural and political oppression culminated in the radical dismantling of collections and museums during Nazi and later Soviet rule. Today museums in Poland are retrieving their collections and redefining themselves within a reconfigured Europe. Many of the paintings on view were stolen or displaced during World War II, and several are being shown for the first time since their recovery and conservation. This exhibition celebrates Poland´s remarkable history of collecting and royal patronage.

The centerpiece of this stunning exhibition is Leonardo´s Lady with an Ermine. Although Leonardo´s Mona Lisa is more famous around the world, the elegant Lady is equally alluring. Leonardo depicted a teenage beauty, veiled and robed in velvet. She holds an ermine in the crook of her arm. One theory holds that the model of this portrait is Cecilia Gallerani, a mistress of Ludovico Sforza, the ruler of Milan. Although Leonardo is famous for his creative abilities, he actually completed only a few paintings. Portrait of the Lady both anticipates the artistry of Leonardo´s world-famous Mona Lisa and signals a breakthrough in the art of psychological portraiture. The exhibition also features important paintings by Bellotto, Ingres, Overbeck, and others.


Leonardo da Vinci and the Splendor of Poland
Ort: Caroline Wiess Law Building